In the winter of 1990-1991, while studying computer science and natural language processing at the University of Essex, I spent my first weekend ever in London. Margaret Thatcher’s 15-year service as Prime Minister in Her Majesty’s Government had just come to a dramatic end.
The Iron Lady left Downing Street just a year after the Iron Curtain fell. Back in the idyllic Ardleigh Park Lodge in Essex, I saw my German housemate Matthias cast his vote in the first all-German multi-party elections since 1933. The other student in the house was Anne-Marie, nowadays Member of the European Parliament for the Dutch Socialistische Partij.
We were young, we were Europeans in England, and the times were historic.
And then, a quarter century later, there was Brexit.
True, I may be skipping a few life events here, like: getting married and daughters; buying a house; starting and ending a dozen of jobs. The fact is: like Marcel Proust’s mind wandered off to his madeleines, Brexit threw me back to that snowy winter.
And now, half a year before the United Kingdom is set to leave the European Union, I’m going back. Back to England. Back to London!
What’s more: not just on a visit.
Next Monday, I start as Sr. Data Scientist at Aire Labs in Shoreditch, just north of the City of London. Aire is, in its own words, “a new credit assessment service” that helps “lenders make more informed decisions, and borrowers get fairer access to credit”.
I will be commuting from Brussels to London on a weekly basis (Monday-Friday). Weekends will be spent at home, with wife and daughters, as usual.
I sometimes dream of meeting the Brexit negotiators —my fellow travellers— on the Eurostar. In the lounge or the restaurant coach, I would tell them this story. And invite them for a beer. Or, in my case, a pint of semi-skimmed milk.
For old times’ sake.